Do you know how many names sugar can come in? A list will surely bore you, but let me tell you, it’s like endless!
With sugar being a controversial food item for vegans, that just adds more mystery. Don’t you think so?
One typical example is my subject today: dextrose.
Wait, did you know that dextrose is actually another term for sugar? And more importantly, is dextrose vegan? Well, it’s a yes and no.
Next, I’ll share with you what I found out!
What Is Dextrose Really?
It may seem simple because dextrose is just sugar made from corn, although potatoes are also an alternative now. But if you think this makes the guesswork easy, then you’re mistaken.
Hello food processing! Yep! Just like all other commercial sugars, companies can manufacture and further refine dextrose in different ways! And yes that can mean sneaky ingredients!
You may also wonder how different (or similar!) it is with other sugars like glucose. and other corn sugars.
Dextrose is chemically similar to glucose in structure, although glucose technically pertains to sugar once it’s in the bloodstream.
However, to be more specific, dextrose is also given the name D-glucose and crystalline glucose.
Also, do not confuse it with corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). All of them fall under corn sugar since they are all made from cornstarch, but the preparation is different. Corn syrup also consists of glucose, while HFCS contains both fructose and glucose.
As a matter of fact, dextrose comes in powder form, and not in syrup. Hence, dextrose is also known as glucose powder, and corn syrup as glucose syrup.
How Dextrose Is Made?
The production of commercial dextrose sugar isn’t a simple process, and it includes the use of several chemicals. Primarily, a crystallization process must occur to finally give rise to dextrose crystals.
A typical production process for commercial dextrose sugar follows this procedure:
- Addition of hydrochloric acid to highly purified starch to convert the starch to glucose.
- Neutralization of excess acid by using sodium carbonate.
- Passage of the resulting neutral liquid through centrifuge, filter presses, and bone char (yes that culprit again!).
- The clear liquid from filtration undergoes concentration using heated vacuum pans.
- Filtration and refinement of high concentration liquid through bone char (again!).
- Further concentration of liquid into heavy gravity in a finishing vacuum pan.
- Stirring the liquid in cylindrical crystallizers for 90 to 100 hrs to induce crystallization.
- Crystallized liquid runs through centrifugal machines again to separate the crystals from the liquid.
- Washing the crystals before placement on hot air rotary dryers to remove excess moisture.
- Screening of sugar crystals before packing.
This production process may vary per manufacturer, including the machines and filters that aid in the refinement of the final product.
Uses Of Dextrose
Just like the popular sugar, dextrose serves many purposes, especially in the food industry. These uses will give you an idea about the probability of your food containing dextrose.
Dextrose is an affordable and widely available form of commercial sugar. So it’s not a surprise how often it comes up in A LOT of food products you’ll see in groceries. Why is that so? Well it has the following uses:
- Food color stabilizer
- Preservative for packaged foods
- Dough aid for rising and browning
Pharmaceutical (Medicine And Supplements)
If you’ve been to hospitals with an observant eye, (or you’re in the medical field) you’ll also see dextrose a lot.
This is the same dextrose, yes, but often made into a liquid solution. It may also come in the form of tablet, gel, intravenous fluids, or injection. Medical dextrose is useful in the following:
- For low blood sugar
- Treatment of dehydration
- As liquid carbohydrate in intravenous feeding
- Treatment of high potassium levels (hyperkalemia)
- Insulin inducer in bodybuilding supplements
Foods That Contain Dextrose
Check these common food products for dextrose next time you go grab them from the grocery shelves:
- Energy drink
- Cake mixes
- Frozen desserts
- Cured meat
- Canned goods
Is Dextrose Vegan?
Dextrose can be either vegan and non-vegan. As you’ve seen in the standard production process above, its commercial manufacture uses bone char! Yep, just like the controversial sugar! Well they’re both sugars, after all!
So when is dextrose vegan?
NOT all manufacturers use bone char to filter and refine sugar. Non-animal products like carbon is a great alternative, which other manufacturers use instead. The problem is details like this are not given in food packages.
So unless the packaging that lists dextrose in its ingredient also includes a “vegan” label, I will put it back in the shelf and forget about it
Also be careful when dextrose comes with a different description such as cultured or fermented. Culture and fermentation of food products often require bacteria from milk, usually directly. It means that dextrose came from milk.
Precautions With Dextrose Use And Consumption
Diabetics and individuals with high blood sugar problems should also take caution with foods that contain dextrose. Although some food products may only contain it in small amounts, remember that it will affect each individual’s tolerance differently.
Dextrose is pure glucose, and it can cause blood sugar levels to spike up faster than other sugars.
If, like me, you’re also avoiding refined sugars (or refined food altogether!), then you should also avoid dextrose.
It is highly processed, plus hey, it’s still sugar, and you know sugars are not healthy! So if you want to stay strong and healthy, keep your sugar consumption at a minimum.
Dextrose is NOT always vegan. Bone char is a common medium for filtering and refining dextrose, which leaves traces of animal products.
However, you’ll never see such details in food packagings, so only stick to the ones that come with a vegan label.
Individuals with blood sugar problems should also be careful with dextrose, since it is pure glucose.
How often do you see dextrose in food labels? How do you decide which ones to keep and which ones to ditch? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.